Can we say “the N word”?
Sunday, while covering the shootings in Tulsa, Oklahoma, CNN reporter Susan Candiotti read a post off of one of the suspects’ Facebook pages:
Today is two years that my dad has been gone shot by a fucking n****r it’s hard not to go off between that and sheran I’m gone in the head.
Candiotti read the post verbatim, pausing briefly to warn viewers that she was about to use sensitive language.
She later apologized for using offensive language.
But should she have to? She’s a reporter, and her job is to report what is happening, not to report a palatable version of what is happening.
Is “the n word” so bad that we cannot even say it when quoting someone else? Certainly, decent people don’t use the word in conversation, but we can acknowledge when other people say it. It’s a painful word, I get that. but so is “Holocaust” and we don’t not use that. We don’t sanitize that. We don’t avoid discussing the name of the event because of its racial baggage. “The N word” exists, and yet we whisper it if we say it at all. We don’t want people to think that we’re the kind of people who use such language or think such things… we don’t even use such language or think such things when using other people’s language about how they think such things.
I feel like society wants to just make “the N-word” go away.
But on the other hand, I don’t feel like I can tell people to stop not saying it. It’s not a word that affects me personally. It’s a word that makes me uncomfortable. People who use it around me lose the privilege of continuing to use any language at all around me… or do anything around me at all. It’s that easy for me to make it go away. It’s not a word that is attached to me. It’s not used about me. It’s not used by people when they form opinions about me. It’s not used to justify violence against me.
Fortunately, CNN reporter Don Lemon agrees.
Because you are too polite. Because you’re too politically correct. You are too polite. This is racism free, so why not say it? Don’t feel bad for me. That only motivates me to speak the truth, right? Because you can’t — not everyone is going to agree with you.
And when I said, when I said that word, I’m going to say it again, the N-word, I just wish, I hate saying the N-word. I think it takes the value out of what that word ready means, especially when we are reporting it. And I don’t care what color the reporter is, I think someone should say, “That person calls someone n****r,” instead of saying the N-word, because I think it sanitizes it.
To which his colleague argues that we can’t do that because it’s too confusing for white people. To which I reply BULLSHIT. White people understand the difference between using impolite words in conversation and using impolite words when quoting horrible people. But maybe I’m naive.
What do you think? Was Susan Candiotti wrong in saying “fucking n****r” while quoting a guy who shot up Tulsa’s black neighborhoods? Is “the N word” conversation one that white people get to decide on? Should we quote horrible language the way it’s used or clean it up and let the audience figure out what was said? Is it even reasonable to think about offending an audience’s delicate sensibilities when talking about a shooting rampage? How’s this for some light and fun Tuesday conversation?
The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3pm ET